Our Top Doctors
The Top 160 Local Physicians in 48 Specialties,
From Allergists to Vascular Surgeons
How do you go about finding a doctor—and how can you determine if the doctor is any good? It’s not easy. Yes, you can ask friends and family for recommendations, and, yes, you can ask your physician as well.
But we went a step further. We turned to Castle Connolly, a medical data research firm that is in the business of vetting doctors. Castle Connolly did the legwork for us—and then some, asking approximately 10,000 doctors and hospital administrators in the metropolitan area for their nominations for the finest doctors in both their own and related specialties. The firm then checked out all the recommendations, and also checked each doctor’s credentials, board certification, education, etc.
The list that follows offers a good starting point for those of you looking to find a physician in our area. And even if you’re not searching for an MD—don’t you want to know: did your doctor make the list?
By Nancy L. Claus
Photography by Chris Ware
Lawrence R. Shapiro, MD
Specialty: Clinical Genetics
Hospital Affiliation: New York
Undergraduate Degree: Tufts University
Medical Degree: New York University
Residency: Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles
Special focus: I’m board certified in medical genetics, and within that area I deal in clinical genetics and clinical cytogenetics, which is the study of chromosomes. The majority of my work relates to children and pregnancies, particular dysmorphology or abnormal features. While we can’t cure Down’s Syndrome and other genetic illnesses, once we make a diagnosis, we can do things to minimize the handicap and ensure the child will be more successful in life. I also see many people for genetic testing for breast, ovarian, and colon cancers.
Why did you choose this specialty? I graduated from medical school in 1962, about the time when Watson and Crick received the Nobel Prize for discovering the structure of DNA. One of my professors, Dr. Kurt Hirschhorn, was remarkable and inspired a number of his students to go into this field, including me.
What advances have you seen in this field? Everything. In 1982, the first boards in genetics were given. As I prepared for those, I realized that 98 percent of what I knew I learned after post graduate training. In the next 20 years there has been a remarkable molecular revolution. Up until about 10 years ago, we couldn’t identify people with increased risk for certain cancers. We know that at least 10 percent of breast cancer cases are inherited. By testing to see who has the gene, we can be proactive and prevent the disease in many cases.
Where will your specialty be 10 years from now? It’s impossible to say. All I know is that it will be very exciting and very fast moving. Still, we will be faced with a significant shortage of geneticists. There are not enough students specializing in this field.
Most difficult case: A child was born with a biochemical disorder, and the parents were told they had a 25 percent risk of having another affected child with each subsequent pregnancy. When the gene for this disorder was discovered, prenatal diagnosis became possible.
When the couple became pregnant again, they had genetic testing done by a well known lab; the baby was found not to be affected and was born healthy. For a third pregnancy, the couple had the test performed here in Westchester, and it showed not only that the baby was normal, but that neither parent was a carrier, which was a mystery.
How did the first child get the disorder if neither parent was a carrier? Was he even their baby or had some type of switch occurred? The mother never once doubted that he was their son. We repeated the blood tests on the parents and did DNA testing, the kind forensic scientists do. It turned out that there had been a mutation in a single chromosome, a mis-division in the egg, that caused the disorder in the first place and that was why the other children were unaffected.
Your proudest moment: When you give people good news and help them understand why news is good. It is not so much a proud feeling as a rewarding one.
Any hobbies or special interests? I love to golf, but I don’t get to play as much as I’d like. My wife and I love to travel and escape frequently to the Berkshires where we have a weekend place. We are going to the Galapagos this fall, and maybe to a genetics meeting in
Best advice for patients: I have better advice for students: when they have to provide information to a patient or parent, they should ask themselves what they would like to know if they were in the same situation. While they can’t anticipate every question, they will be better able to inform.
Irene Hyler, MD
Specialty: Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Hospital Affiliation: New York Presbyterian Hospital,
Weill-Cornell Medical Center
Undergraduate Degreee: Sarah Lawrence College
Medical Degree: Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Residency: Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Why did you choose this specialty? While I was growing up, I was interested in the human mind and how it worked. As a teen, I started to read Sigmund Freud and became interested in the meaning of dreams.
What advances have you seen in this field? The field in general is becoming more biologically oriented, with new medications being used to treat mood disorders, learning disabilities, and attention deficit disorder (ADD). But recently there have been some setbacks to this approach. Some medications can actually increase suicidal thoughts in children and adolescents. Some medications for ADD can have cardio-toxic effects like arrhythmias. There may be a trend back to psychotherapy and play therapy for younger children.
Where will your specialty be 10 years from now? There will be a more eclectic approach, more looking at the person as a whole. What are the biological factors, psychological factors, social factors? Different kinds of interventions are needed depending on the underlying causes of the problem.
Your proudest moment: When I graduated from psychoanalytical training at New York University in June of 1998.
Any hobbies or special interests? I love to travel and have visited
What do you do to stay healthy? I enjoy spending time with my family; we are very loving and caring to one another. I feel that keeps me healthy.
Best advice for patients: Parents should really talk to their children, and, then, really listen to what their children are saying.
Elliott Rosch, MD
Specialty: Internal Medicine
Hospital Affiliation: St. John’s Riverside Hospital
Undergraduate Degree: Brown University
Medical Degree: University of Pennsylvania
Residency: Pennsylvania Hospital
Special Awards: Phi Beta Kappa, named to Best Doctor lists
Why did you choose this specialty? I found it to be the most broad-reaching specialty in medicine, allowing me to do a lot of different things. I can follow my patients over time, providing both long-term and acute care. It is challenging and meaningful work.
What advances have you seen in this field? There have been improvements in medications and more sophisticated technology, such as pet scans and MRIs. Surgical techniques have advanced rapidly along with diagnostic and therapeutic practices.
Where will your specialty be 10 years from now? The way HMOs work is affecting how primary care physicians work—they have to see more patients in shorter amounts of time and spend more time on documentation. This specialty will have a harder time supporting itself in the future. People who do what I do are becoming a disappearing breed. I spend a lot of time with my patients, although it varies from patient to patient. I try and make house calls when I can.
Most difficult case: They are all memorable, all difficult. For each case, you have to put your heart and soul and brain into it; they each require the same amount of time and care.
Your proudest moment: The response I get from my patients makes me proud—the fact that people can leave the hospital cured, that I can help. In this day and age, with computers spitting out information, everyone has the same information available to them. But what separates excellent physicians from the others is how much time and caring is spent on patients. Maybe I put in a little more time, ask the right questions. I’m a single guy, so I can devote myself to my work.
Any hobbies or special interests? Naturally, I read a lot of medical articles, but I also like to read fiction and non-fiction. I just finished Guns, Germs, and Steel, a great nonfiction book that has been on the bestseller list for 100 weeks. I live in Manhattan and I like to go to museums. When I first went to MoMA, I wanted to see the entire museum in one trip, but it was just too big. So I’ve gone back a few times.
What do you do to stay healthy? I have good genetics, so I’m lucky, but I like to take care of myself: I work out, eat right, and don’t abuse myself.
Role model: My parents and grandparents, who were hard-working people—who cared about humanity. My maternal grandparents owned a store in the Bronx and worked hard all their lives. My father was a stockbroker and his father was a noted scientist. We lived in Yonkers and I came back after medical school to work here.
Best advice for patients: See your primary physician on a regular basis for preventive care. And, of course, exercise, eat right, drive safely, and have tests to check for the onset of disease. Find a physician you trust and with whom you feel comfortable.
Seth Gendler, MD
Hospital Affiliation: Sound Shore Medical Center
Undergraduate Degree: Wesleyan University
Medical Degree: Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, IL
Residency: Saint Luke’s – Roosevelt Hospital Center
Special Awards: Listed in Castle Connolly’s Guide to Top Doctors in 2001, 2004, 2005; America’s Guide to Top Physicians in 2003, “Teacher of the Year” award from SSMC.
Why did you choose this specialty? I have a bit of the surgeon in me and gastroenterology allows me to do the hands-on therapeutic maneuvers that technically treat diseases along with the intellectual aspect of making diagnoses.
What advances have you seen in this field? In the old days, we had to open up a patient surgically to treat problems with the gall bladder, liver, bile ducts, and pancreas. Today I can put a tube down a patient’s mouth to the liver or intestine, find the tumor, place a stent or remove an obstruction without having to cut the patient open.
Another great advance is capsule endoscopy. We can look at the stomach with endoscopy, the large intestine with colonoscopy, but the small intestine is difficult to see except with X-rays, after the patient swallows barium. A few years ago, a capsule was developed that is the size of a pill that has a camera inside that people actually swallow.
We can get detailed pictures of the entire small intestine.
Where will your specialty be 10 years from now? It’s mind blowing. In tests on animals, doctors are now doing surgery through an endoscope. The scope goes down the mouth and the doctor creates a small hole in the stomach. From there, doctors can take out a gall bladder or appendix, close the incision in the stomach, and remove the organs through the mouth.
Most difficult case: One medical resident was having terrible abdominal pains so we did an upper endoscopy, small bowel X-ray, colonoscopy—and all the reports came back negative. A capsule endoscopy, however, showed three live worms in her small intestine that she had gotten from eating uncooked food.
Another memorable case was a man who came in complaining of stomach pain. We found 10 bags of cocaine in his stomach—he didn’t make the connection that swallowing the bags would lead to stomach pain. Because of confidentiality laws, I couldn’t report him, so he went home.
Your proudest moment: When I became chief of the GI division at this hospital.
Any hobbies or special interests? Running is my passion. I’m in training for my 15th New York City marathon race.
Role Model: Dr. Jacques Deviere, the chief of GI at the world-renowned Université Libre de Bruxelles. He is one of the top two or three gastroenterologists in the world and he is also my friend. When I need help on a particular case, he’s the one I call.
Best advice for patients: Maintain a healthy lifestyle, don’t consume alcohol excessively, be careful with over-the-counter medications like Advil, which can cause bleeding. And take advantage of preventative opportunities like having a colonoscopy to take care of problems before they develop.
Barry Jordan, MD
Hospital: Burke Rehabilitation Hospital
Undergraduate Degree: University of Pennsylvania
Medical Degree: Harvard Medical School
Residency: New York Hospital
Why did you choose this specialty? I have three subspecialties in the field of neurology: sports neurology, traumatic brain injury, and Alzheimer’s and dementia. I’ve always been interested in both neurology and sports medicine. Now I evaluate athletes with concussions and am the chief medical officer for the New York State Athletic Commission.
What advances have you seen in this field? New studies suggest that traumatic brain injury is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s. As I work with a lot of boxers, I’ve seen them develop a syndrome similar to Alzheimer’s called dementia pugilistica. The trend is that medications used in treating Alzheimer’s are also being tried in those with traumatic brain injury.
Where will your specialty be 10 years from now? The most important advance in the understanding of Alzheimer’s is the discovery that a protein amyloid deposition is a key feature; this abnormal protein accumulates in the brain and is toxic. This happens in traumatic brain injury as well. I think in the future there may be treatments for Alzheimer’s that may also be useful for those with traumatic brain injury.
Most difficult case: While I was a resident at New York Hospital, a patient came in with meningitis, a condition that is usually fatal. We did an emergency spinal tap. The chairman of the department told me that very few times had he seen someone with that condition live.
Your proudest moment: My biggest contribution was my study in 1997. I found that a gene called APOE4 increases the risk for Alzheimer’s. If a boxer has that gene, he is more at risk for developing Alzheimer’s and it is more likely that he would not recover as well from head trauma.
Any hobbies or special interests? I love photography. I’m currently taking classes at the School of Visual Arts and the International Center for Photography in New York City.
Best advice for patients: I mostly see brain injury in patients related to traffic accidents. So the best advice I can give is to always wear seat belts and to wear a helmet when engaging in any activity that could lead to head trauma: riding a bike, motorcycle, skateboard, or skiing.
Elisa Burns, MD
Hospital Affiliation: Northern Westchester Hospital
Medical Degree: Columbia University Medical Center
Residency: Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center
Why did you choose this specialty? For me, this is the best possible combination: being able to engage in the “thinking” side of medicine as well as the hands-on “fix it” side. And unlike other specialties, I really get to know my patients—in some cases, I’m taking care of my patients’ babies, now all grown up!
What advances have you seen in this field? I’ve been practicing for 20 years and the applications for minimally invasive surgery have really grown. Laparoscopy, once used only for tubal ligation, can be now used in more procedures. Formerly major surgical procedures—sometimes even hysterectomy—are now minor.
Most difficult case: One morning, a patient called me and told me her baby wasn’t moving. Something in her voice told me it was serious and she was admitted to the hospital right away. It was clear the baby was not doing well, so I did an emergency C-section and resuscitated the baby. Two weeks later, the baby was able to go home and was just fine. In that case, I know I made a difference, I saved that baby.
Your proudest moment: When I graduated from medical school. I’ve wanted to be a doctor for as long as I remember—as early as elementary school. When I was applying for colleges, the counselors suggested we think about alternate careers, in case our first choice didn’t work out, but I couldn’t conceive of another thing I wanted to do. And I’m just as happy in my career now as I was 20 years ago.
Any hobbies or special interests? I like cycling and enjoy riding on the North County Trail. I recently joined the Westchester Cycle Club, and they plan all kinds of
Role model: My mother is incredibly smart, very thoughtful, very moral, and she really cares about the rest of the world. She is my moral compass when I’m faced with difficult choices. Even though she is retired (she was a counselor for mentally ill patients), she still fights injustice and reaches out to help others, counseling people with HIV and advocating for women who are victims of domestic violence.
Best advice for patients: Regular checkups are important, but in reality, a healthy lifestyle is more important: quitting smoking, eating right, avoiding toxic habits.
Jay Lippman, MD
Hospital Affiliation: Eye Surgery Center of Westchester, New Rochelle
Undergraduate Degree: Brooklyn College
Medical Degree: Rosalind Franklin University of the Health Sciences
Residency: Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Special Awards: Honor awards from the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists.
Why do you think you were named best doctor by other doctors? It’s humbling and very gratifying.
Why did you choose this specialty? I was an air force flight surgeon during the Vietnam war and much of aviation medical training is in ophthalmology—the pilots need to be able to see. When I returned to the States, I decided to specialize in this field.
What advances have you seen in this field? We have seen incredible advances in the last 20 years. We can now take out a cataract, a clouding of the crystalline lens, and replace it with an implant that not only takes away the blurriness caused by the cataract but also the blurriness that created the original need for glasses. We are entering the age of multifocal implants. With bifocals, patients can see near or far, but multifocal implants offer the whole spectrum of focus and can reduce or eliminate the need for reading glasses. Cataract surgery and/or lens replacement surgery are now considered to be extremely safe procedures.